March 29, 2007--Kestenbaum & Company conducted an auction of Fine Judaica on Thursday, March 22nd. The results of this compact auction of 252 lots exceeded all expectations with good selections of Printed Books and Manuscripts including Bibles, Liturgy, Talmuds, Hagadahs, French-Hebraica, Autograph Letters and 20th century Illustrated Books among others.
A highly coveted illustrated Book of Ceremonies, a perfect copy from a nobleman’s library, Amsterdam, 1645, was the top lot of the sale bringing in a high price of $129,200 against at an estimate of $50,000-70,000. Also performing extremely well in a section of rare 16th century Constantinople Hebrew imprints was a scarce collection of super-commentaries to Rashi, entitled Sepher Canizal (circa 1520), that realized $92,040, nearly tripling its pre-sale estimate of $30,000-40,000.
Important Chassidic texts were well represented with Schneur Zalman of Liadi’s editio princeps of The Tanya---the fundamental exposition of Chabad Chassidic philosophy, Slavuta, 1796, which sold for $70,800; while among the Bibles, the most striking was the Mortimer Schiff-Salman Schocken copy of the Estienne 1539 Hebrew Bible, a beautiful wide-margined set, presented in a superlative contemporary binding, which garnered $67,850 against an estimate of $20,000-30,000.
The Talmud section of the sale featured noteworthy lots including early fragments of extreme rarity--two unicum leaves of a Spanish 15th century edition, which brought in $35,400; and two early 16th century Tractates printed by Daniel Bomberg: Masecheth Yoma which reached $30,680 and Masecheth Bava Bathra which was purchased for $35,400.
Headlining the Hagadahs was a deluxe copy in an original binding printed on premium paper of the celebrated and influential second Amsterdam Hagadah, 1712, which realized $30,680.
In the Manuscripts section, the two most desirable lots were a group of nineteen Autograph Letters Signed by Yitzchak Isaac Halevy, Hamburg, 1903-1913, attaining $35,400 and far exceeding its pre-sale estimate of $4,000-6,000, and an exotic 19th century Prayer Book from the Far East according to the rite of the Jews of Cochin which realized $17,700 against its pre-auction estimate of $4,000-6,000.
Further sale highlights were Nachmanides’ Torath ha-Adam, 1519, which achieved $28,320, and the Book of Esther illustrated by Arthur Szyk, Paris, 1927, which sold for $10,030 against an estimate of $3,000-4,000. Also noteworthy was a rare 18th century book on equestrianism with a most unusual supplement containing a series of dialogues between Jewish horse traders in their distinctly secretive Hebrew-German jargon; it garnered $12,980 against a pre-sale estimate of $7,000-9,000.